Why are there so many antioxidants in chocolate?
The cocoa bean is a fruit. In fact, it is one of the healthiest and most bio-active whole foods in existence!
It comes from the cocoa plant. To understand the hype and confusion around chocolate, we return to this fact, and start seeing cocoa as a whole food.
Throughout time, the medicinal and healing power of this super food has been distorted, and today, reduced to little but a junky candy bar.
Long before modern scientists discovered the benefits of antioxidants, it was apparent to the ancient civilizations of South America that this was a very special plant.
YES, CHOCOLATE IS PACKED WITH HEALTHY ANTIOXIDANTS! BUT ONLY THE RIGHT KIND OF CHOCOLATE…
I will go into the science behind the antioxidants in chocolate, but keep in mind – this applies to the consumption of healthy chocolate, ideally in its raw and natural form.
The right kind of chocolate is made from pure raw cacao which is oozing with antioxidants, also a most potent anti-inflammatory and has many other life giving properties.
In depth research about cacao is fairly new (last 10 years and ongoing), but this is what scientists have found.
First and foremost, let me remind you that cacao is the number one antioxidant food in the world. By a looong shot, because no other food really comes close to the antioxidant content.
Cacao has an impressive nutrient profile, and it is particularly high in antioxidants calledflavanoids.
These are considered the “work-horse” of the antioxidants in chocolate.
Flavanoids include a variety of compounds. One class is flavanols: consisting of catechins and epicatechins, and procyanides.
This is the group of flavanols that generates all the excitement in cacao research!
Dozens of studies have confirmed the benefits of cacao. The principal mediator of the benefits is found to be epicatechin – the higher the levels of epicatechins and its “cousins”, the better the effect.
Several recent studies show that even a single serving of flavanol- and epicatechin-rich cacao (i.e. raw, unconventionally processed) helps reduce blood vessel damage. 600-900 mg of flavanols a day is enough to achieve this effect.
Research suggests that cocoa flavanols can help improve memory, cognition, fight fatigue, and stop dementia. Basically they make you smarter and more alert.
The class of flavanols called epicatechins are of particular interest.
Daniel Fabricant (vice president of scientific affairs at Natural products Association) says,
“The link between high epicatechin consumption and a decreased risk of killer disease is so striking…it may be that these diseases are the result of epicatechin deficiency.”
When it comes to antioxidants in chocolate, it is very important how the chocolate is made, and what is further added.
Processing is key to flavanol content. Truly raw cacao has the highest levels.
Unfermented, sun-dried, non-roasted and cold-pressed cocao has eight times the epicatechins and catechins, and four times the levels of procyanidins than cocoa produced with standard processing.
And this is before all the other bad stuff is added to the regular chocolate (wax, sugar, milk powder, etc)!